DUBAI: Several endangered sea turtles have been recovered in Dubai and released into the Arabian Gulf.
They were released yesterday on World Turtle Day as part of Jumeirah Group’s Turtle Rehabilitation Project in Dubai. Fifteen hawksbill turtles and six green turtles, both considered endangered species, arrived at Jumeirah Al Naseem Beach next to the iconic Bur Al Arab hotel.
The Dubai Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Project works to protect endangered sea turtle species, with a focus on the hawksbill, a critically endangered species that nests along the Gulf Coast each year.
Among the turtles that have successfully recovered are a large female green turtle whose carapace was damaged by a boat strike, and a male hawksbill turtle named Zippy. Zippy was rescued by the Dubai Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Project in October 2022 after being found floating off the Ras al Khaimah coastline in poor health and reported to the 800 TURTLE helpline. Zippy had an intestinal impaction, a severe lung infection and was covered in barnacles from eating plastic debris.
The event was moderated by Jumeirah Group CEO Katerina Giannouka. “Many of our resorts are on the coast, whether in the Middle East or in Europe, Indonesia and the Maldives, and we’ve seen firsthand the impact of climate change on precious marine species, these fragile ecosystems,” she said in her welcome speech.
Giannouka added: “Coastal resilience and biodiversity health are critical to Jumeirah’s business and to the tourism and hospitality industries globally. We have an obligation to act now to educate, collaborate and support a sustainable future for all progress made.”
The event was attended by key partners including government representatives, academia and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Also in attendance were representatives from Yas Sea World Research and Rescue, who performed a CT scan on Zippy at the start of his remarkable recovery journey.
Barbara Lang-Lenton Arrizabalaga, Director of the Aquarium at Burj Al Arab, said: “As these turtles are limited in number, it is important to ensure that each individual turtle is able to fulfill its role in maintaining the population. Once the adult turtles have fully recovered, they are released to the right It’s very important to us.”
She added: “We have released a few turtles this season and we can see from our satellite tagging program that some of these animals have traveled to their nesting sites. The sex ratio is shifting towards more female births. The reintroduction of fully mature male hawksbills like Zippy marks an important milestone for sea turtle conservation in the UAE and globally.”
A satellite tagging program run by the Dubai Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Project has produced valuable data showing the project’s global impact on sea turtle populations. Remarkably, the team managed to track the journey of a rescued Olive Ridley turtle, which is occasionally encountered in UAE waters, back to an important nesting site for the species in India. Previous data also showed a green sea turtle migrating to Thailand, demonstrating the importance of rehabilitation and reintroduction to maintaining sea turtle populations worldwide.
“Our aim is to ensure that sea turtles receive the best possible care. Building inter-emirate collaboration between the scientific community, rescue centers and government entities in the UAE will allow us to collaborate mutually beneficially on sea turtle rehabilitation, research and habitat restoration, ’ said Arrizabalaga.
“With the support of the UAE community, Jumeirah’s Dubai Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Project continues to have a positive impact on sea turtle rehabilitation, contributing to the protection of these threatened species.”
Building on its commitment to protecting marine biodiversity and ecosystems, Jumeirah Group also recently hosted a three-day marine climate retreat, the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action (MPGCA) Oceans and Coasts. The event was attended by Razan Al Mubarak, President of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and COP28 UN High-Level Advocate for Climate Change. The retreat focused on addressing the importance of the ocean-climate nexus to the hospitality industry, bringing together high-level COP28 climate advocates, experts and leaders from MPGCA Marine and Coastal, World Wildlife Fund International and Emirates Wildlife Fund.
about the project
Jumeirah Group has been successfully caring for sick or injured sea turtles since 2004 on a dedicated project in partnership with the Dubai Wildlife Protection Office (WPO), Dubai Falcon Hospital and Dubai Central Veterinary Research Laboratory. Rescues average over 100 turtles per year, and the most dominant species at the facility tend to include hawksbill and green turtles, although loggerhead and Olive Ridley turtles are occasionally brought in.
The project also runs educational programs for school groups to learn more about what the Dubai Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Project does, the importance of these incredible creatures and the threats they face in order to survive. Held between October and April, more than 1,700 schoolchildren from all seven emirates take part in the season. Hotel guests and tourists can also learn more about sea turtles and their conservation, witness their rehabilitation and even participate in feedings in Jumeirah Al Naseem’s state-of-the-art dedicated turtle lagoon.